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A Foodie's Guide to Cape Town, South Africa
June, 19. 2020 | Guest post by: Leah Green
Over time, Cape Town has positioned itself as a premier destination for its stunning topography, unique wildlife, and abundance of adventurous activities. But it also affords travelers some of the finest flavors and dining experiences in the world due to its position in a prime trading location. Steeped in rich history and local customs and traditions, the vibrant restaurant scene is sure to entice foodies from all around the globe. Discover the amazing South African cuisine and popular food in South Africa with our Foodie's Guide to Cape Town.
South African Cuisine: Multi-Cultural Influences
Cape Town is dense with choices; one of its biggest draws is the immense diversity it provides visitors, wherein they have the opportunity to taste dumplings, curry, fish and chips, and flame-grilled meats, amongst several other foods. Although few dishes are considered “traditional” due to various cultural influences, you will always be presented with top quality and a unique mixture of styles in Cape Town, so it’s important to bring your appetite.
Popular Food in South Africa:
- Fish and Chips - Due to Cape Town’s close proximity to the ocean, fresh fish is in regular supply, making fish and chips easily accessible fare. It’s featured in casual eateries and higher-end spots alike, and certainly worth trying in every form. We recommend checking out Kalky’s in Kalk Bay and Snoekies in Hout Bay, both of which have their original take on this foodie favorite.
- Bunny Chow - This savory dish highlights Cape Town’s Indian influences and is perhaps best done in casual takeaway joints like Durban Bunny Den, Sundoo, and The Burner. Bursting with flavor, bunny chow is a half hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry and chicken or beef. Due to the portion size, it’s generally best shared with someone else.
- Gatsby - Perfect for sandwich-lovers, a Gatsby is two slices of bread stacked with various meats, chips, and sauces, and -- similar to Bunny Chow -- is easily shareable due to its immense size. You can find some of the best in the city at The Golden Dish, Cosy Corner, or Bona Fast Food.
- Bobotie - Originating in Cape Malay, this sweet and sour (and often spicy) Indonesian-inspired dish consists of minced beef topped with a custard of milk and eggs and is quite fragrant.
- Biltong and Droëwors - You’re likely to find this trademark South African snack food at any bar, pub, or restaurant. Biltong is similar to beef jerky and is created by curing and drying meat, and subsequently seasoning and cutting it for consumption. Droëwors, on the other hand, can be likened to dried sausage and is often considered quite addictive by locals.
- Braai - Braai actually refers to South Africa’s take on a traditional barbecue and is an incredibly fun experience. Generally, meat dominates the menu, with spiced sausage, beef steak, pork or lamb chops, and boerewors making an appearance on the grill.
- South African Desserts - Rest assured, those with a sweet tooth will be well-accommodated. In Cape Town, this takes the form of milk tart (custard-like pie), malva pudding (apricot jam sweet pudding with warm cream sauce), and koeksisters (small crispy doughnuts). Travelers can now find them in supermarkets, bakeries, and on restaurant menus in several iterations.
There are countless dishes for foodies to try while in Cape Town, but we recommend starting with some combination of the above. You simply can’t go wrong.
Best Restaurants in Cape Town
- The Test Kitchen is widely regarded as Cape Town’s top restaurant. With a three-month waiting list, the popularity of this highly sought-after spot speaks for itself. Guests begin their journey in the Dark Room with a beverage, slowly make their way into the Light Room, and are eventually immersed in the dining room, which features an open kitchen that churns out award-winning Nouvelle Latin cuisine. With plenty of thrilling experiences, The Test Kitchen is sure to leave a lasting impression on your tummy (pun intended) for years to come. And, like any memorable experience, it’s not just about the food itself, but the ambiance that enhances each delectable bite.
- Sister restaurant to The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club’s menu is uniquely created to emphasize sharing. It features a collection of tapas-sized plates divided into 5 distinct tastes: salty, sour, sweet, umami, and bitter, and it’s sure to delight.
- With fresh and local ingredients, Chefs Warehouse. With multiple locations within the city, each offering a different setting and vibe, dishes are on constant rotation, so if it’s feasible with your itinerary, plan to return every few days to try something new. For more casual dining, try the Canteen on Bree Street, and for an upscale experience visit the location at Beau Constantia.
- If you’re seeking an upscale and elegant dining experience, Pigalle is the place for you. With notable Portuguese influences, Pigalle specializes in creating dishes with fresh seafood and Chalmar steak, and features live entertainment as guests wine and dine.
- La Colombe’s signature is its 11-course tasting menu and course-by-course wine pairing. Nestled in a converted treehouse, this intimate and fine dining experience is well worth the price tag.
Wine Regions near Cape Town
Calling all wine aficionados: Cape Town’s internationally-recognized wine scene has a rich history and Dutch influence dating back nearly 350 years. The Western Cape located just outside Cape Town is home to six regions and 26 districts, with five of the most popular being Constantia, Stellenbosch, Durbanville, Paarl, and Franschhoek. Within these regions, foodies can indulge in gourmet food and some of the best wine tasting the country has to offer. Stunning farm properties and vineyards bring some of the finest farm-to-table dining experiences out there.
Without a doubt, Cape Town is foodie heaven. Like anything else, we suggest doing your own research and seeking out places and dishes that pique your interest -- and perhaps your taste buds, too.
About the Author
Leah the Co-Founder and Travel Designer at Ubuntu Safari Agency, Leah believes the word Ubuntu encapsulates and reflects the way we should view the rest of the world and how we are all somehow connected, no matter where we are or how different we are
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